Cross County High School Wins Award for Social Justice

July 14, 2016
University Chronicle

Cross County High School

New Tech Network (NTN) announced at the New Tech Network Annual Conference (NTAC) in Orlando, Florida, that Cross County High School in Cherry Valley, Arkansas, was named recipient of the Chad P. Wick Award for Social Justice. This award is given to a school that demonstrates success in closing the opportunity gap for underserved students.

Wick, Vice Chair of ACT, and Founder, Director, and President Emeritus of KnowledgeWorks Foundation, has worked tirelessly to see that all students are able to experience educational opportunities that prepare them to succeed in the post-secondary paths of their own choosing.

“Cross County High School is inspiring students to graduate knowing that college is a reality, not just an aspiration,” said Wick, “regardless of background or economic challenges. I am so proud of their commitment to that vision.”

Cross County High School, a member of the New Tech Network, supports teachers to better serve students through its College and Career Access program — designed to mitigate challenges students face who will be the first generation in their families to attend college and students who live in poverty.

The school is located in an economically challenged, sparsely populated, 300-square-mile, school district. It has 700 students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Farming is the main source of income in the area with rice, corn and soybeans as the three major crops. There are no local businesses, and the town has a gas station and a Dollar General store. People who do not farm drive long distances to work.

The reality is that zip code, the parent level of education, and income often dramatically impact student opportunities and lifelong earning potential. “For most students, post-secondary education is now a necessity to reach the middle class, and the students we serve need someone to help them be successful in the post-secondary world,” said Cross County School District (CCSD) Superintendent Carolyn Wilson. “CCDS College and Career Access Center Director, Matthew Swenson, punctuated this point saying, ‘All students should – dare I say, must have the same opportunities as their peers across the state if we want them to thrive rather than just live.’”

“In the United States, we read a lot of headlines that focus on ‘going-to-college’, yet the even bigger crisis is that in this country we graduate far too many students who are not ‘ready-for-college-level work’,” said Lydia Dobyns, President and CEO of New Tech Network. “The Cross County High School educators are providing paths to ensure their students graduate with the skills and academic preparation they need. Our aspiration is that every student gets access to the kind of education that prepares them to be successful if they attend college.”

The decision to transform this rural community high school into a New Tech school was a district-wide commitment. The District realized its students did not have knowledge of the world around them. Many students had never been out of the three small communities that comprise the school district.

Matthew Swenson was on hand to accept the award. “I am honored to accept this award on behalf of Cross County High School’s staff and students. We could not have achieved this honor without help and support from our coaches and sister schools in the New Tech Network, along with parents and administrators. This shows what New Tech schools do is right for all kids.”

The school’s achievement at NTAC was applauded by more than 1,850 educators — representing elementary, middle and high schools nationwide — attending this year’s conference which was held July 11-14, 2016. The conference featured the theme: “Making it Personal ─ Connecting the School and the Student.”

The New Tech Network consists of over 180 schools in the United States and Australia. NTN is a leading design partner for comprehensive school change and while it does not operate schools, all New Tech schools share four design elements:

  • Teaching that Engages ─ Through project-based learning, students become problem-solvers.
  • Outcomes that Matter ─ New Tech Network learning outcomes also measure collaboration, written and oral communication and the development of student responsibility for their own learning, or agency.
  • Culture that Empowers ─ By making learning relevant and creating a collaborative learning culture, students become connected to, engaged with, and challenged by their school, their teachers and their peers.
  • Technology that Enables ─ Through a technology-rich environment, teachers and students create, communicate, access information, and experience self-directed learning.

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